ANNOUNCEMENT: CHE SERIES IS DROPPED!

    We’re pleased to inform you that Tapas.io has officially licensed this series. The release on their platform is scheduled for August 4th. Consequently, we will be discontinuing our translation of the entire series by that date.

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    Only 2 chapters for now! I might upload more once I’ve finished proofreading them.

    Edited: 13th March ’24


    The prisoner obediently followed Aslan’s lead. He was so unresistant that it was rather suspicious, as if he was planning to follow along and then escape.

    Aslan glanced up at him, but his face was so expressionless that it was impossible to read his emotions. There was not the slightest trace of relief at having saved his life or anxiety about his future treatment. Maybe his mind had gone a bit strange after going through that notorious heretic trial.

    “Hey. You know you barely survived, right? Jerome rarely spares outsiders who drift in like you. He’s a very suspicious person, despite appearances.”

    The prisoner glanced at him and replied.

    “Yeah, thanks.”

    He seemed to know that Aslan had willingly endured the trouble for him.

    But wait, what’s with this natural informal speech?

    “Still, you’ve passed the crisis, so as long as you do what you’re told, there’s little chance of you dying for no reason. Since it’s come to this, let’s introduce ourselves. I’m Aslan.”

    “Na…”

    Na?

    “I’m Bart.”

    It’s a pseudonym.

    Clank, clank. Every time he took a step, the sound of metal clashing rang out loudly.

    The prisoner had thick shackles on both arms, connected by a rather short chain, which seemed to greatly restrict his movement.

    “I think we’ll have to do something about this first if we want to start anything…”

    After a brief moment of contemplation about whether it was okay to release him, Aslan shook his head. What good would it do for this man to try to escape from here? A prisoner branded as a devil worshipper would not be able to settle down properly anywhere on this continent.

    Their destination was a smithy in the corner of the slash-and-burn village. It might be questionable to call it a smithy, with just a small forge and a slightly damaged anvil in the corner.

    “I can’t remove these.”

    Old Man Max, who had crawled out after drinking alcohol since the morning, said while rubbing his reddened nose.

    “These aren’t shackles that were put on to be taken off. The heated iron was interlocked and welded together.”

    Then, looking at the prisoner’s smooth wrists, he tilted his head.

    “It’s strange that there’s not a single scar despite having these on. Really mysterious.”

    Aslan frowned. Walk around the notoriously rugged Western Mountains with a shackled man in tow? Who are you trying to kill?

    “Isn’t there any way? We have to start gathering medicinal herbs in the mountains starting tomorrow.”

    “Well, we could try hammering them after heating them up in the forge…”

    Old Man Max shrugged his shoulders while lifting a bottle of alcohol.

    “But will those hands and wrists still be there by then?”

    That’s true. It would be troublesome if the hands needed for work together were gone while trying to be helpful.

    While Aslan was pondering an alternative, the prisoner, Bart, was staring blankly at his own wrists as if seeing them for the first time.

    “To think they would pull such a prank…”

    Despite being the one wearing them, he acted as if it was the first time he was properly looking at the shackles.

    It seemed his mind was indeed a bit unstable. Thinking that he would have to carry this fellow around like a tumor from now on, Aslan felt an unprecedented migraine coming on.

    For now, Old Man Max and Aslan agreed to at least break the chain connecting the shackles. Soon, the old man came out from the corner of the smithy with a heavy hammer, placed a chisel on the chain, and started hammering.

    Clang, clang, clang.

    However, the work of the heavily drunk man did not seem very reliable. After Old Man Max’s hand slipped a few times, nearly crushing the prisoner’s hand, Aslan, unable to watch any longer, snatched the hammer from him.

    I’d rather do it myself than watch with a pounding heart.

    Bart, who was obediently holding his hands on the anvil, was calmly observing what they were doing with a composed face. He was a person with little sense of crisis.

    Holding the hammer and aiming at the chain, Aslan focused his mind. Judging by the strength of the chain, it didn’t seem like it would break after a few strikes, so although he was unskilled, he planned to use aura to finish it as quickly as possible.

    Although he had never received proper lessons and had not officially started training, he was capable of temporarily flowing the aura accumulated in his core points to his arms and weapons when he focused his mind. Considering that he had figured it out on his own, it could be evaluated as a fairly good talent.

    Taking a deep breath, he swung his arm with all his strength as he exhaled.

    Clang. A sound of a completely different dimension from Old Man Max’s rang out in the smithy.

    Clang, clang.

    After striking two more times in the same manner, one of the chain links shattered with a crisp sound.

    Whoa. Old Man Max, who had taken a sip of alcohol in the meantime, gulped down his Adam’s apple once and let out an exclamation of admiration.

    “You used that?”

    Aslan nodded. Old Man Max, who often repaired weapons that were roughly flowed with aura and broken, already knew about Aslan’s special skill.

    And surprisingly, Old Man Max was not the only one who noticed this.

    “I didn’t expect to find an aura user in a place like this.”

    Bart stood up, rotated his wrists once, and said to Aslan. It was the first time he had made direct eye contact with Aslan. Thinking absentmindedly that his eyes were strangely chilling, Aslan replied a little awkwardly.

    “I’m not quite at the level of being called an aura user.”

    “He just hammered it, and you can tell?”

    When Old Man Max asked in amazement, Bart silently nodded.

    “Remarkable. This kid occasionally pulls off such tricks, but you’re the first person in this village to recognize what he did.”

    Then he whispered to Aslan.

    “What did this fellow do before?”

    “He says he was a herbalist who was a former priest and devil worshipper.”

    The old man belatedly noticed the brand on the back of Bart’s neck and clicked his tongue.

    “Is this a punishment from the gods? Your remaining life won’t be easy either.”

    He tapped Bart’s back as if to comfort him, then disappeared into the smithy, shaking his bottle of alcohol.

    The two of them then wandered around the slash-and-burn village. It was already too late to do other work, and it was judged that it would be better to have Bart, who would be living together from now on, familiarize himself with the village’s layout.

    He also needed to be acquainted with the villagers to a certain extent. Since it was a village made up of vicious bandits, they had to avoid the misfortune of Bart wandering around alone and being stabbed for being suspicious.

    The villagers were gathering in groups of three or five, drinking and playing knife-throwing games while chattering. Some were loudly bragging about robbing Acein’s regular merchant caravans soon.

    They glared fiercely at Bart as he passed by, as if trying to pick a fight, but seeing Aslan next to him, they soon lost interest and turned their heads away. They knew well that Jerome, the boss, valued the skills of this young boy.

    “You see that high cliff over there? That’s the boundary of this village.”

    Aslan, who had been living alone since leaving Rohan, thought it was a bit troublesome to explain this and that, but somehow felt a little excited.

    It was also because Bart was a better conversation partner than expected. Although he didn’t show a big reaction to Aslan’s words, he had a unique atmosphere that gave the feeling that he was basically listening attentively.

    “If you follow that trail all the way up, you’ll find abandoned fields. They say they were farming there until two years ago, but when Jerome’s group settled here last year, they were completely abandoned. I tried to use some of it somehow, but I couldn’t bring myself to set the mountain on fire alone. Ah, have you ever farmed, Bart?”

    Bart shook his head.

    Of course. Although he had soot smudged here and there, he basically had clean skin as if he had never seen sunlight. His hair was also roughly grown out, but strangely, it had a nice texture as if it were well-maintained.

    An innate dignity that was not fully concealed by the shabby robe seeped out, and Aslan was speculating that Bart might have been a very high-ranking clergyman before the trial.

    “Do you want to try farming?”

    Yeah. Above all, his way of speaking is incredibly heavy. Even though he doesn’t look that old.

    Aslan shrugged and answered.

    “Hmm, it’s not quite like that, but I want to make a living doing something other than being a bandit. Actually, it’s unstable here too, because as the village grows in size, the intervals between robbing caravans keep getting shorter. Someday, a subjugation force will come here too.”

    “……”

    “But even though I think about it in my head, I don’t know how to actually live like that. Because I’ve been in a bandit group since I was young, I don’t know how to live differently. Still, when I was young, I tried to do other things, like learning to hunt and gather medicinal herbs, but the more I learned something, the more I ended up getting involved with the bandit group.”

    “…I see.”

    “And I don’t like stealing and killing. The people in the bandit group said it’s too unfair that only we get robbed and live like this, so we’re just paying back the world. But if you think about it, the dead merchants never directly did anything bad to us, right? So I guess I feel guilty. Gustaf always told me to live according to my conscience.”

    “……”

    “Ah, Gustaf was a priest I used to know. He died after getting caught up in a subjugation force.”

    Remembering Gustaf, Aslan’s nose suddenly felt stuffy. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Aslan momentarily wondered why he was even talking about such things.

    However, Bart’s face, who had been listening silently, became a little serious.

    “No matter how unfamiliar something is, you adapt to it when it hits you. It seems we don’t have much time, so how about going down the mountain now?”

    Huh? Time?

    Aslan tilted his head.

    “Well, it’s not like I haven’t thought about it, but it’ll be difficult as long as Jerome is here. You know, last year, a few of the original slash-and-burn villagers escaped down the mountain. But do you know what happened to them?”

    “……”

    “They were caught by Flandore’s guards and immediately executed on the spot.”

    That’s right. It was difficult for simple people who had lived their entire lives just digging the ground to suddenly turn into bandits just because the bandits who had come from outside the village told them to. In the end, a few who opposed it led their families and secretly went down the mountain.

    When Jerome heard the news of their escape, he showed no particular reaction. He just smiled grimly.

    Surprisingly, as soon as they arrived near the village, they were arrested by the guards who were waiting and beheaded on the spot. The reason given was that they were vicious criminals, but there were even babies among them.

    They were not given a chance to reveal their identities, let alone a brief moment to speak about the bandits occupying the slash-and-burn village.

    That’s why Aslan had been suspicious. That there was actually someone in Flandore’s guards who was in collusion with Jerome. There must be a reliable corner for Jerome to boldly rob caravans indiscriminately.

    “I don’t think I can ever get out of here now. Still, since coming here, I haven’t directly hung out with the raiding party yet. I think Jerome is dissatisfied with that, but well, he’s not so short on people that he needs to borrow the hands of a young kid like me. I’m pretty good at hunting.”

    “I see.”

    “Yes, it’ll be difficult to completely wash my hands of it, but I’ll probably die at the hands of a subjugation force someday. But while I’m alive, I want to live with a clear conscience.”

    Ahaha. I’m talking nonsense to someone I just met.

    Feeling a bit embarrassed, Aslan scratched his head and looked up at Bart. And then he was momentarily startled, because this cold-looking prisoner was raising the corners of his mouth slightly while looking at him.

    Although it lacked warmth, it was clearly something that could be called a smile.

    “You have quite admirable thoughts for a young age.”

    Then, a hand lightly touched the top of Aslan’s head.

    Pat, pat.

    “Uh…”

    Aslan didn’t know what to say. It felt like he was being treated like a kid who couldn’t tell right from wrong, but it wasn’t bad to be praised either.

    Above all, when was the last time an adult had treated him so purely like a child?

    Aslan, somewhat immersed in a strange sentiment, quietly let Bart’s hand remain.

    And then, the chain hanging from the shackles hit him on the forehead.

    Any guesses who Bart might really be? ????

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